SALEM – Never underestimate the value of a good scouting report.
The Ursuline High boys basketball team had more than its share of problems dealing with zone defenses and East Palestine obviously did its homework.
The Bulldogs tormented the Irish with zone all night and kept the pace in its favor with solid shot selection and a third quarter scoring burst to earn an impressive 59-47 victory Wednesday in the Division III tournament at Salem High School.
East Palestine (18-3) advances to the district semifinals next Tuesday night against No. 2 seed Waterloo, which defeated Crestview (62-53) in Wednesday’s nightcap.
“They scouted us well,” said Ursuline coach Keith Gunther, whose squad failed to advance to at least the district semifinals for the first time since 2003. “Their zone gave us a lot of problems and they knew we had struggled against zone all year. We just didn’t knock down the outside shots like we needed do and East Palestine hit their open looks.
“They also did a good job on the glass and took our transition game away. In the third and fourth quarters, we got behind and you see the wind go out of our sails and the effort wasn’t there.”
The Bulldogs, who were eliminated in the by Ursuline in the district semis last season, broke open a close game with an 8-0 to start the third quarter. Brandenn Keylor sparked the effort with a pair of 3-pointers. He scored 10 of his team-high 20 points in the period to swing the momentum.
Ursuline (6-17) made just three-of-11 shots in the third quarter against the East Palestine zone defense.
“My teammates we getting me open looks and I made the shots,” said Keylor, who finished with four treys. “We executed very well in the second half and our defense stopped them from getting open looks.”
East Palestine led 39-34 after three quarters and pulled away in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings hit 15-of-24 shots in the first half en route to a 38-19 lead, but held off a furious Crestview comeback in the second half to seize a 62-53 win.
Waterloo (20-1) did its damage with the 3-pointer, hitting six in the first two quarters. The Vikings led by as many as 22 points in the third quarter, before cooling off from the field. The Rebels chipped away in the second half, getting within seven points in the fourth quarter.
Jimmy Smith’s back-to-back 3’s cut the deficit to 51-43 with 5:53 remaining. With 1:21 left, Carter Hill’s long ball got the Rebels to within 58-51.
But Waterloo closed the game out at the free throw line to advance to the district semifinals against East Palestine.
“I’m proud of our kids’ effort in the second half,” said Crestview (10-12) coach Rick Gates.
“We got down big, but we battled back, changed our defense a little bit on the perimeter and made it a game.
“We came back from 20 points down against United to end the regular season and rallied to win our last game too, so we were just telling the kids that we’ve been in this position before.”